With the 2018-19 season in the rearview for the Washington Wizards, we at NBC Sports Washington are analyzing the five biggest questions of what should be the most consequential offseason they have had in years...
NO. 1: WILL BRADLEY BEAL QUALIFY FOR A SUPERMAX CONTRACT?
There are a handful of events this summer that could alter the course of the Wizards' franchise significantly moving forward. They will have a new general manager and possibly one from outside of the organization, someone who could prescribe wholesale changes. They have the sixth-best lottery odds and could luck into a top spot to net a future star.
But aside from winning the lottery on May 14 and landing Zion Williamson in June, nothing will have a more profound effect on the Wizards' future than the All-NBA announcement in late May. The league has not revealed a date yet, but it was May 24 last year, May 18 the year before and May 26 the year before that. Basically, by late May we will know if Bradley Beal made it for the first time in his career.
Beal has a chance for third team All-NBA and could get it if he earns more votes than guys like Kemba Walker of the Hornets, Ben Simmons of the Sixers, Devin Booker of the Suns and Klay Thompson of the Warriors. There are six spots and five essential locks: Stephen Curry of the Warriors, James Harden of the Rockets, Russell Westbrook of the Thunder, Damian Lillard of the Blazers and Kyrie Irving of the Celtics.
If Beal gets All-NBA honors, he will be eligible for a supermax contract. It wouldn't begin until the 2021-22 season, but it is projected to be worth $194 million over four years. His deal would start at over $40 million annually.
The Wizards already have John Wall signed to a supermax deal, which kicks in next season. He will be making $43.9 million in 2021-22. He and Beal would account for roughly three-quarters of the salary cap that season.
The Wizards could, in theory, sign Beal to a supermax and just deal with it later. They would have two full seasons before the contract begins. By then, Wall should be healthy and have at least a full year of games under his belt and maybe more if he returns next season.
But delaying the inevitable is not a sound strategy. If extending Beal backfires either as a singular move or in conjunction with Wall's deal, it could strap the franchise for many years to come.
All of this makes a supermax offer in the event Beal becomes eligible potentially a decision so massive it could be the most important call the next GM makes in their entire tenure in Washington. And that GM may have to make that decision within months of taking the job.
There are many reasons why this situation is not simple. If Beal qualifies for the supermax, there is not a 100 percent guarantee the Wizards offer him one, given their future financial state. And even if they offer one, there is no certainty that Beal will take it. Though he has gone to extremes to say he wants to play the rest of his career in Washington, he has also left the door open for not accepting a supermax contract, with the caveat that he needs to learn more about the direction of the franchise.
If either of those scenarios happen, if the Wizards do not offer the deal or Beal does not take it, that could effectively spell the end of his time in Washington. Both sides can say otherwise, but try telling fans that everything is okay if Beal turns down what could be an extra $80 million and moves one year closer to hitting free agency, or if Beal doesn't receive the offer at all and therefore is signaled that he isn't worth the money.
If Beal were eligible for a supermax and a new contract was not reached, that would almost certainly begin a saga of trade rumors that could last years. That's the way the NBA works these days and there will be no way to control the narrative.
Now, though that sounds like a worst-case scenario, it might not be for the Wizards. As long as Beal, who turns 26 in June, remains an All-Star talent and under contract, they have options. If they felt they had to trade him, they could get plenty of assets in return. It would just be a difficult and possibly ugly process to go through.
It all hinges on the All-NBA announcement. If Beal doesn't make the team, everyone moves on like nothing happened. If he does get it, everything changes for him, the Wizards and their offseason.
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